The Season of Lent
LENT IN A NUTSHELL
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (February 17th, 2021) and ends on Holy Thursday (April 1st, 2021). On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Sacred Triduum beings.
The 40 days of Lent correspond to the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness to fast, pray, and endure the temptations of the devil, all in preparation for his public ministry which would culminate in his death on the cross.
There are many ways to celebrate the Lenten season, which we will look at over the course of lent.
Below are three helpful ways to help begin your Lenten journey:
Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday (Tuesday February 16th, 2021) - Fat Tuesday, as it is known in English, is a long-standing tradition of the Catholic Church and it marks the last day of ordinary time before the start of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance. Traditions arose for Fat Tuesday where people would empty their pantries of many items restricted during Lent. Rich foods are consumed as pilgrims prepare for times of fasting, abstinence, confession, and penance. While we can eat pancakes, which has been a tradition, along with sneaking a few extra strips of bacon or links of sausage, this day is a day of farewell. We say goodbye to our old norm and begin preparing our hearts for a Holy Lent.
Farewell to the Alleluia - The Church has the custom of not speaking or singing the word “Alleluia” during Lent. Alleluias are joyful proclamations, which we put away during the more contemplative penitential season of Lent. A symbolic ritual to help children move into this season is to “say goodbye” to the Alleluia.
Decorate a banner or poster board with the word “Alleluia” in large letters. Everyone can participate in decorating the poster with markers, glitter, stickers, sequins, etc. Then it can then be ‘veiled,’ put in a dark corner or closet of your home.
In my family we wrote the word Alleluia on a piece of wood, to symbolize the wood of the cross, then we buried it with sand in a plastic container with a cover until Easter Sunday.
Lenten Sacrifices - Giving up something for Lent has been in our tradition for centuries. While it is tempting to give up chocolate, lose a few pounds, and call it a “good Lent,” it is not quite what the Church had in mind. Not that your health is not important, but the Lenten sacrifice plays a more significant role in the process. One thing is obvious about Lenten sacrifices: They seem to vary from one person to the next. Some people decide to give up coffee, alcohol, or sweets during Lent. Others work on praying more. Still others may volunteer at the local soup kitchen, and so on.
However, all the sacrifices just mentioned, and any others which we can come up with, are categorized under one of the three kinds of human acts traditionally known as Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Ramping up one’s prayer life falls under the heading of prayer. Giving up coffee, alcohol, and sweets are forms of fasting. And volunteering at a soup kitchen or giving up one’s time to serve others counts as almsgiving.
As we begin the Lenten Season, strive to pick one sacrifice or action that will help you to grow closer to the Lord.
Resources from: The Catholic Company; Building Faith; Catholic Online; Catholic Digest; Lifeteen